“‘Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’”
Holy ground. Not proximity. Not presence. Exodus 3:5, also famously emulated by one of TWU’s founders Walter Cahill, implies that land and space can hold power—enough power to impose a lifestyle change. Of course, we know that a physical setting can affect an emotional atmosphere. TWU’s Collegium is comfortable and social because it’s filled with warm leather chairs and soft wood panels. Or is it?
The reason old furniture, scuffed floor, an ashed fireplace have the power to impact your mood—even your morality—is because they also have a history. If ground can be holy, can’t it also be friendly? Fearful? Flippant? Land is predisposed to impact our emotions based on those of its former inhabitants.
Our souls soak into the ground like molasses on toast—contributing to the flavour of the atmosphere far into the future.
When Moses entered the desert, he found the ground filled with the infinite history of God’s holiness. So too, when you enter a room, you sense the weight of emotions that linger from your predecessors. In that moment—when you sense a familiar emotion but know it’s not your own—it’s déjà vu.
This mystery is the tragedy of modern construction. Skyscrapers and townhomes overwrite these histories and thus dispel the land’s power—futilely built up over generations of interactions. Not to say that we must choose between progress and sentiment. But perhaps the reason our children are becoming increasingly violent, increasingly sexual, increasingly forlorn, is because we’re raising them in houses of blank slates. We attempt to teach them right and wrong, but these principles hold no power without a historical narrative. To them, respecting personal property is irrelevant because your property isn’t personal. It’s Ikea.
Live sensitively; because you’re not just impacting the people with you, you’re impacting the people after you. Sit down and notice the worn patch on the armrest and know that you’re seated in the velvet temple of a thousand past conversations.